By Akin Owolabi
The Federal Government of Nigeria late last year chose to acknowledge the immense contributions of a score and three Nigerians who robustly added values to the services of the country. Expectedly, Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, made the list of superlatively productive individuals. This did not come as a surprise to Nigerians and other enthusiasts in the outer world who have come to see the JAMB’s helmsman as one cut out for the very best of accolades. A day after the award ceremony, Leadership Newspapers coincidentally added another feather to Oloyede’s plumery cap, honouring him with the Man-of-the-Year award.
On the list of the Productivity Merit Award too was the draft Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali, Rtd. It is indubitable that Customs Service (Department) was established from the founding of Nigeria as a country to essentially fill the Federal Government tills with local and foreign currency. It is therefore important to note that the draft head of the service could substantially raise the bar of revenue accruable to the Federal Government.
The thinking before Ali’s appointment had been that even if an angel of the rank of Cherub was drafted to head the Customs, it would still remain business as usual. This is because it was considered that no mortal could fix the porosity in the Nigerian borders so as to stave off smuggling or drastically bring down the level of connivance of customs officials.
It therefore remains a fact that Col. Ali worked hard, probably in the military fashion, to attain a new revenue height which still stands as a tip of an iceberg. This means that more and much more revenue should still be expected from the Service.
Conversely, JAMB is not a revenue generating arm of government. It is first and foremost a social service outlet and is consequently not expected to make any appreciable revenue contributions to government. This must have been the mindset of pre-Oloyede administrations at JAMB. Therefore, when Prof. Oloyede assumed office, both the ministers of Education and Finance stipulated what has come to be very rediculous revenue expectations from the new helmsman. While that of Education regarded as superlative, the return of N50million yearly from the board, his Finance counterpart suggested N200million.
At the end of first-year business, a surplus as high as N8 billion lay on Oloyede’s table. He promptly wired N5 billion into the Treasury Single Account. The two ministers, dumbfounded, initially regarded the figure as computing error of immense proportion. That was not the case as additional N2.8 billion was later posted.
Oloyede thus shattered the trend of yearly returns as paltry as N5 million by remitting a cumulative N20billion to the central purse within three years. Even the reduction of UTME registration fee from N5000 to N3500, has not significantly lowered the revenue accruing to government.
The two recent awards are appropriate addenda to others of all hues that have come Oloyede’s way. He has earned more than a handful of them in the Academy, the professions, on the national and international platforms. What is of more concern in this exercise is the verve and spirit of the marathoner being displayed by the JAMB Registrar in his resolve to go the whole hog in putting the board he superintends in the best possible shape.
He embacked on the herculean task of giving JAMB a fresh breathe as soon as he took the mantle of leadership in 2017, August precisely, and has since then mustered the verve and resilience of the marathoner who must build enough muscle and long breathe necessary for a long and tortuous race. How do I mean?
The registrar’s first two years in office turned out to be nightmare for admission crooks, hackers into JAMB’s porter and other miscreants who were feeding fat on harpless admission seekers and their sponsors. Most Nigerians had been brainwashed into believing that the road to admission into tertiary institutions must be bought at cut throat prices. The battle, to the onlookers, was not expected to tilt in JAMB’s favour, going by the awesome technological resourses at the law breakers’ disposal. This contrasted sharply with the then fragile tecnnological position of the board. The result of the battle is well documented for researchers to glean. It is instructive to assert with 100 per cent correctitude that the incubus called admission racket has departed from the shores of Nigeria, hopefully for good.
Examination malpractice, though a global menace, has been confronted and technically defeated. JAMB’s penchant and gust for fraud-free Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, have resulted in drastic reduction in the national menace, yes, down to the lowest possible level.
Last year (2019) JAMB fought and defeated multiple registration racketeers. One such demeaned syndicate was found to have registered 146 times for 2019 UTME. Multiple registration was so pervasive that JAMB decided to apply the national character clause by selecting two culprits per state for trial. It is expected that JAMB has breezed past those hoodlums in the fashion of ace marathoner overtaking laggard runners.
However, the war is far from being over in the tertiary admission scape. Some institutions, universities in particular, are underrating the capability of the board’s aversion to all forms of chicanery in the admission processes. The board’s Central Admission Processing System, CAPS, has unearthed the subterfuge of some university authorities that are in the habit of luring unsuspecting qualified candidates from their preferred courses of study. They do this by underhandedly uploading candidates into their individual university portals and persuading such ones to change their courses of study thus paving the way for their preferred, yet less ranked, candidates to be admitted. The trickery was detected and appropriately dealt with.
Any candidate is free to settle his or her score with JAMB. Such interloquitor must however bear in mind that “he who comes to equity must come with a clean hand.” This is because most charges against the board are spurious and such could land the candidates them in a dilemma of immense proportion.
Take the case of the son of a prominent professor who scored a little above 200 (was it 206 precisely?) in the 2019 UTME. The lad or lass doctored the result to 260 and persuaded his parents to press the case of double scores with JAMB. The board, characteristically, paid the fares of the son and his too trusting mother to JAMB Headquarters in Bwari, Abuja to iron out the matter. On interrogation and presentation of the facts of the matter, the son capitulated and pronto, the boy landed in bigger quandary. At such stage the head is already off. Prosecution must ensue.
It has become a routine for the board to delist computer-based test (CBT) centres that failed to hit the bull’s eye in the UTME process. . At a meeting with erring CBT centres in Abuja last December 9, the board presented the cases against those delisted with unassailable details. The hard fact is that there is no more hiding place for participating candidates and organisations involved in JAMB’s UTME in view of the board’s technological superiority.
JAMB has successfully prosecuted some admission law breakers – hackers and those who latched on the system to make money. Update on the conviction so far lies with JAMB’s spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin. It is therefore advisable for people in the admission business to look carefully before leaping so as not to jump from the proverbial frying pan into a raging fire. JAMB has become so well structured, well organised and best primed to deliver on its mandates. Any obstacle is expected to be appropriately addressed as it arises
It would be foolhardy to conclude that all the problems of JAMB have been dissolved with the wave of Oloyede’s hand. Problems are bound to crop up. . However, the man at the helm of affairs appears equal to the task.This has been the trend since his assumption of office and it looks as if the marathoner’s breathe in Prof. Oloyede is still strong and being replenished to finish off the race. This is a sideliner’s view and conviction.
*Akin Owolabi writes from Ota, Ogun State (firstname.lastname@example.org)